Back to fitness after surgery

(first of all, sorry for my poor English)
Hi there,

Last year (16-06-2021) , I got hit by a van. I had broken 8 ribs, 3 cervical vertebrae, 5 vertebrae in my back and a double sternum fracture. Before the accident I had never done any form of structured training, but when I could finally start to ride my bike again, I bought a smart trainer.

After a solid year of training, I got to an ftp of 264 watts at 60 kg (quite proud of that).
But last week, I had to have surgery again, to remove the bolts that were placed in my back. The doctor says I can’t do any form of training or sport (only walking is allowed) for the next 6 weeks. GOODBYE FITNESS!

Here is my question: When i can start riding/training again, should I first do a couple weeks of base, based on RPE. Or should I do an FTP-test and start structured training?
(Indoor I have power, outdoor not)

Speak to your doc about when to resume. Back in 2019 I had different surgery (a bowel/ colonoscopy) which saw me out for 5weeks. Although I could barely move at first it was surprising how a lot of walking kept me in shape. Myself when I did resume training, I instantly dropped my FTP by 50w and used RPE to adjust and avoided the stress of an FTP test.

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Don’t know how slow you’re willing to go when you are finally allowed back but I’m just back on the bike (indoors only so far) after a hernia repair (a much smaller surgery) and here’s what I’m doing:

  • First ride was 10 minutes at 35% (of my pre-op FTP)
  • Second ride 15 minutes at 40% (after waking up the next morning and barely feeling any different following the first ride)
  • Then had a rest day - still feeling as though I’ve done no cycling.
  • Third ride 30 minutes at 45% (for all of these I’m using Recess-5 and turning the intensity down to get my target watts)

And so on. I’m taking 2 weeks to progress from gentle spinning up to doing an actual z2 workout, then I’ll take 2 more weeks to progress up to doing my first sweet spot workout (which will likely be more like a threshold workout due to FTP drop). Then I’m starting my 2023 training plan, at which point I think I’ll have done enough to trust AI FTP detection. And by the end of the first training block I should be pretty much back to normal.

These early rides are frustratingly easy and I’m sure I could ramp that progression up a bit if my goal was to get fit fast, but my goal is to get fit for next season (and the ones after that), not for next month. I also probably started back easier than I might have otherwise because I had different surgeons give me different information about when I was allowed back on the bike. I followed the advice of the one that actually cut me open, but that meant I was on the bike 2 weeks earlier than the previous consultant told me I was allowed to ride. So my two weeks of gentle spinning working up to z2 is during a period where my main surgeon said ‘gentle riding is ok but nothing strenuous’ but in a previous appointment I’d been told ‘no cycling at, all even indoors.’ I took that as a cue to try it but be extra cautious.

One thing I learned from my first few times walking outdoors is - definitely stop your first few activities before you think you need to, then see how you feel the next morning before deciding whether you could have kept going. A ‘nothing’ activity can be surprisingly sore the next morning, so take it way easier than you think you need to until you have a few days worth of experience with it.


I’m in a similar situation, having just had a hernia repaired. I’m trying to stick to the mindset that every workout, for a good long while, should be in the service of promoting healing and general health. So I’m not doing any structure (and especially not a ramp test) because I don’t want to risk pushing too hard and re-injuring myself.

Enjoy the walks (I have been), do simple rides, gradually add in some limited, careful efforts, back off when your body warns you. If there’s PT to do, spend some extra time focusing on that so you’ll have a healthier body for the long term.

This is all easier said than done because I also feel impatient and eager to resume training.


Hello fellow traveler! I too have been quite frustrated at the incredibly wide range of activity recommendations post-surgery, even from different people at the same office.

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Yes, my uneducated guess is that it’s down to two main things:

  • Is the individual experienced enough to be confident deviating from the ‘official’ recommendations set out by their governing body which are presumably written with average sedentary people in mind (the nurse at my pre-op assessment told me for 6 weeks I shouldn’t put more water in the electric kettle than I absolutely need so it’s not too heavy).
  • How much understanding does the individual have of cycling and cycle training? The consultant who told me absolutely no riding for 6 weeks said that even indoors he was concerned about the possibility of falling over, so it was clear he’s never seen a current-gen wheel-off smart trainer before. The (much younger) surgeon who did the op was the one that brought the words ‘indoor trainer’ into the conversation when I told him I was a cyclist, so I’m sure he has a much better grasp of what’s involved. I suspect understanding ERG mode (or even just power meters) is another level of comprehension that a surprising amount of medical professionals lack - for me this seems hugely important when assessing whether a patient is likely to get carried away and overdo it.

FYI I’ve been logging some of my experiences on the hernia repair ghost thread here in case you want to know more. Will try to leave this thread focused on OPs situation though.


When I had my major op in 2019 (Not the same as yours) I was told a lot (mostly 6weeks +), and other than a lot of walking (short and slow at first), I did nothing until my check up with the doc at circa 5weeks and he told me I should get back on the bike, actually I should have already been on it. My take is a lot of the advice given is cautious (and rightly so IMO) and based upon the average individual (one that’s less likely to train) and only your specific consultant knows whats best for you as an individual and even they won’t know 100% until they see how you are responding.

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